Game 1 of these NBA finals is over. Everything pretty much went as expected; Spurs teamwork outdid LeBron and the Supremes. There's still no doubting how good LeBron is...the Spurs threw pretty much the entire team at him on most plays, leaving low percentage shots, dish offs and kick outs as LeBron's only options.

While there's no denying that the Spurs' single-minded "Stop LeBron" defense only further proves how good this guy is, there's also no denying that the Spurs are a well-oiled Championship machine. They are all business, they have done this before, they play unselfishly, and, well, they're the better team in these finals.

That said, I feel a disturbance in the Spurs Force, like thousands of voices (those in the SBC Center) cried out, and were suddenly silenced (like when LeBron hit that second three-pointer in the 4th).

Really, Obi Wan? Tell me more.

Good teams make adjustments. The Cavs lost on the offensive boards 13-9, lost on the defensive boards 30-23, and LeBron was held to 4-of-16 shooting - and the Cavs only lost by 9. The Spurs played a great all-around game, but the Cavs can play better, and if LeBron studies enough film and figures out where and how he can get his shots (and I believe he is savvy enough to do that), the Spurs could be in for a fight. Don't forget, the Cavs were down 2-0 against the Pistons and then won 4 straight.

My advice to the Cavs? Pick, and pick, and pick again for LeBron. It looked to me like the Cavs stopped playing after the first pick set for LeBron, assuming he would use his athleticism to score. That worked sporadically against the Pistons (aside from the amazing game 5, when it worked consistently, because LeBron played like Zeus), but it will not against the more talented Spurs. The Spurs defense swarmed effectively because there were no bodies in their way. If the Spurs are going to send a boatload of defenders in LeBron's direction, then the Cavs must set an equally tenacious swarm of picks. Too often, one pick was set, and the roll to the basket was ineffective because the entire Spurs team was already in the lane waiting for LeBron (or for his long dish, which was regularly intercepted). Give LeBron the ball, yes, but don't expect him to take on five Spurs by himself, or force him to bullet pass an assist from three point line - allow penetration (that's what she said... no time... but she did... NO TIME!).

Kudos to the officials in this game. They finally let the teams play. I am so sick of officials falling for plays that "look like fouls." They didn't break up the action with free throws every five seconds, and that is a much more enjoyable game to watch.

For those of you in need of the schedule for the rest of the series, allow me to save you some time:

Up next: Game 2
Followed by: Game 3
Then: Game 4
If necessary (it will be): Game 5
If necessary (it will be): Game 6
If necessary (it won't be): Game 7

In the spirit of the NBA Lottery system, the order of games 3 and 4 may be reversed (whereby game 4 is actually played first) if, by his capricious and arbitrary will, Commissioner Stern deems it to be for the betterment of all basketball kind.

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6 Comments:
Anonymous Dennard said...
True enough Cleveland can play better, but the Spurs played their "C" game tonight and still coasted to a victory. Therefore the Spurs will play better in game 2 as well.

Anonymous Evil Ted said...
The Spurs Big 3:

Duncan - 24
Parker - 27
Ginobli - 16

That's not a "C" game. The Spurs consistent excellence simply means that they don't roller-coaster, and therefore have less potential to improve - because they're already playing very well.

The Cavs essentially have to put together four miraculous games, with LeBron and Gibson being the most likely components of that. Hint to Cavs: Gibson's a starter now, if you want a chance.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I have to agree with dennard. The angle I've mostly seen is James had a bad night yet they only lost by 9. I think this is wrong, but people in the media and NBA are still trying to force the coronation of "King" James.

Three things:

1. the Cavs 'only' lost by 9, but were down 18 when the Spurs started playing to bleed clock. While this got the Spurs offense a little out of rythm and allowed the Cavs to make a mini-run, the downshift in tempo cut down how many possessions were left in the game. There were simply not going to be enough possessions for the Cavs to catch up, effectively sealing the win with 8 minutes to go.

2. LaBron had a bad night, but the factors that went into that aren't changing: Brown's "playcalling", James' bad decision-making, and the Spurs defense. It goes beyond James needing the ball to be efffective on offense; in order for him to be effective, James seems like he needs at LEAST five seconds of dribbling. That might work against Detroit, it will not work against the Spurs.

3. While evil ted is right and the Spurs do not even have a "c" game, they definitely have a couple of gears they did not use. The Spurs were obviously rusty from the layoff and didn't get in rythm until the 3rd quarter. Parker drove to the basket at will, but his jumper was off. Finley only shot 1 of 7, Ginobli played okay not great, and Duncan was relatively (for him) quiet (his numbers were solid, but compared to his past Finals games below par). This is the worst game the Spurs will play, and the only reason the Cavs were within 20 was the Spurs went into the NBA version of a prevent defense.

Anonymous Evil Ted said...
All good points. The fact is, I want to be entertained by these finals, and an entertaining finals means LeBron has to play much better. He has to find a way to dictate the action rather than having it dictated to him.

There is far more room for LeBron to improve than for the Spurs to improve, and I hope he finds the right strategy by game 3 at the latest, or this will be a very short and disappointing series.

The prediction remains Spurs in 6. I expect the Cavs to put together at least two wins at home.

Anonymous Ron Burgundy said...
does anyone else think daniel gibson looks like hes about 14? he looks like someone brought their little brother along to play. he makes me do a double take - like whats that kid doing there?
but he needs to be out there instead of larry hughes...who was really innefective today.
I agree the final margin of 8 was because the spurs stopped playing at 8:36 left in the 4th or thereabouts. lebron is going to come out firing in game 2 - im looking for him to be aggressive, so we'll see what the spurs are going to do...i dont think they pulled out everything from up their sleeves today.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Also, you have to wonder if this wasn't the worst possible way to lose for the Cavs. It might have been better for them if the Spurs HAD won by 20 and knocked some sense into Brown. Now, they look at that final score and look at LaBron's numbers and think, "Hey, if we keep doing what we're doing we really have a shot. James won't have another game like that!"

So instead of inserting Gibson into the starting lineup or developing another play besides James-dribbles-out-the-clock-and-heaves-one-over-three-guys-at-the-buzzer, they put their head down and keep on keeping on.

Its almost as if the Spurs in all their evil genius saw they were up by 18 and made a decision to give up some points to give the Cavs false hope in their game plan. "Nah, guys, really, that almost worked. You should do that again."

-matt

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